Giving thanks


By Jane D. Brown

A new mural is being painted in Carrboro just in time for Thanksgiving. The mural is full of life and food and love, just like Thanksgiving and TABLE, the non-profit that commissioned the colorful creation.

For 15 years TABLE has provided meals for children and families in Orange County. TABLE will soon be moving into their new 311 E. Main St. facility with the mural as its calling card.

Designed and painted by local artist Loren Pease, the huge rainbow cornucopia of 64 natural foods from the earth and sea spills into a bouquet of flowers. At the far end of the 20 by 75-foot span, the first location of TABLE is depicted as a small white house. Some of TABLE’s donors and their children are also represented. One is putting the final strawberry in the rainbow.

Loren hopes the mural will engage both adults and children as they ask “What veggies do you see?” and search for the elusive chickens and maybe a goose. Loren, a former high school art teacher, likes to evoke emotion as well as educate with her art. 

Across the street, another of Loren’s murals on the side of the WomanCraft Gifts store portrays the remarkable metamorphosis of Monarch butterflies in dramatic oranges and blacks. In Southern Village, children are thrilled to find another of her series of tiny frogs in unexpected places.

Loren said she develops the idea and goals of a proposed mural with her clients. In this case, TABLE wanted “to have something that spoke to all ages and related/ honored food and community.” She said she tried to illustrate “people coming together to create something beautiful.”

Loren said her process varies but usually starts with drawing designs on a photograph of the wall using her iPad. She tweaks the design after consultation with the donors. “Once the design is selected and approved by the town, etc., the job can begin. Every job is different. I sometimes use a grid, count bricks or project the image” on the wall. For the TABLE mural, Loren “used chalk and free-handed the entire mural due to the complex layers of the food rainbow.” Loren worked with 12 gallons of paint and spent about three weeks on the wall. 

Loren grew up in Connecticut. In college in Ithaca, NY, she majored in advertising with a minor in art. She began painting murals soon after moving to North Carolina 23 years ago when a friend asked if she’d paint her baby’s nursery. Through word of mouth Loren then “painted baby nursery after baby nursery.” Realizing that art was her core passion, she went back to school to get her teaching certificate at Greensboro College.

Loren then taught at both Jordan and Northern High Schools in Durham all kinds of art including painting, pottery, paper making, and multimedia. She said, “I loved it, my students loved it.”

Teaching full-time didn’t leave enough time for her growing family (three sons now all in Chapel Hill schools) so she returned to painting only on weekends. She continued with interiors, evolving from the baby nurseries to dentists’ offices, pediatric clinics, and restaurants. 

Then she began painting more exterior murals in surrounding towns for “tons of middle and high schools.” Loren said that for the past several years, she and veteran Chapel Hill muralist Michael Brown “have had fun working together as he phases into retirement.” They partnered on the tiger mural in the center of Chapel Hill High School and on the bull at the Durham Bull’s ballpark. Loren said, “We are both super hard workers” and “respect each other and our creative abilities.”

Michael said, “I think Loren is terrific. I was immediately impressed with her on our first job together. She brought her own ladder! She has a work ethic you wouldn’t believe – it’s a frightening thing – we get stuff done right away. I’ve had my time. I lucked out. Loren has really helped me to let go.”

She said Michael “gave me some important pointers” as she began working closer to home. Some of her first local murals include a wall for Wilkinson Supply Company in Carrboro and another behind Cats Cradle. Loren said, “I am so happy to finally be painting murals in my own community.”

We are lucky to have such talent beautifying our surroundings. On this holiday I’ll be giving thanks for our artists and important volunteer organizations like TABLE that make sure the children in our community have the nutritious foods Loren has so delightfully depicted.

Jane D. Brown taught in the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media for 35 years and has lived in Chapel Hill since 1977.

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